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Wednesday 22 September 2021

Retired winemaker makes his comeback a winner

Garry Crittenden is like a retired boxer coming back for one more bout.

Except this comeback story is a roaring success, with the industry innovator producing a stellar Nero d'Avola at the age of 78.

Crittenden was one of the Australian pioneers of Italian grape varieties in Australia, and one of the first winemakers I met, probably three decades ago. A lovely man then and he remains so today. 

The former Dromana Estate kingpin stood down as winemaker at family business Crittenden Estate several years ago, handing over the reins to son Rollo Crittenden.

Then, back in early in 2020 as vintage approached, Rollo took Garry aside and advised that he'd secured a parcel of Nero d’Avola grapes and wondered if Garry might like to "have a play".

"I could hardly believe my luck and couldn’t wait to don my orange vest and pull on my Blundstones again," Garry Crittenden said.

"In the 20 years I worked with Italian grapes they were varieties entirely from the north of Italy ... and here I was being presented with a belated chance to have a play again." 

Crittenden has just released his Nero d’Avola Catto - and it is a ripper, with unmistakeably Italian-accented savoury notes.

Medium-bodied and elegant, the limited release is available for $30, or in six-bottle wine packs with free delivery Australia wide,

Plus you'll receive a booklet detailing the origins of the Catto label - and a surprise family dsicovery - and more on Garry's role in the development of Italian Varietals in Australia.

Garry Crittenden is a true pioneer. He was among the first vintners to see the potential of the Mornington Peninsula as a serious wine region along with visionary Nat White at Main Ridge.

With a background in horticulture and inspired by his long-standing love of wine, Garry transitioned from a nurseryman into viticulture just as the Peninsula was emerging as a wine growing area.

His first modest five acres more than doubled the area under vine in the region. Since those first plantings in 1982, his commitment to the region has seen the Mornington Peninsula flourish.

He was also the first winemaker in Australia to commercialise Italian wine varieties, introducing varieties such as barbera, nebbiolo, dolcetto and sangiovese to both Victoria and Australia. He was behind the Schinus and Garry Crittenden ‘I’ labels, and later Pinocchio.

Now he's working with a grape that has its origins near the town of Avola in southern Sicily.

"Over the years I have drunk many Italian Nero d’Avolas and never cease to be amazed that grapes from such a warm latitude can produce wines of such elegance and finesse," Crittenden says.

"They are always bright and fresh with astonishing crimson luminescence, somewhere between say a pinot noir and a shiraz.

"This one is true to style and I'm delighted with the result. A pretty, floral and spicy nose with lots of red fruits. The flavours on the palate are mouth-filling, juicy and finish with eastern spices."


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